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Student Life

It's only money?

BMJ 2003; 326 doi: (Published 01 March 2003) Cite this as: BMJ 2003;326:030368
  1. Peter Cross, freelance journalist1
  1. 1London

As the UK government announces its plans for funding in higher education, Peter Cross looks at how medical students around the world are expected to pay for their education and how the cost impacts on them

Lynette Mason, a final year medical student in the United Kingdom comes from good working class stock, the very sector of society that the UK government claims it is keen to see in medicine. Lynette feels lucky and privileged. Her mum works in a post office and her dad drives a bus. Like former Labour leader Neil Kinnock, she is the first member of her family to go to university. But the way things are going, she may be the last.

Lynette expects to qualify owing a total of about £10 000 ($16 355; a15 081). Not a vast sum, you may think, but far greater than what she expected when she first went to Cambridge University. She was lucky; she was one of the last students to receive a full grant, and her preclinical course had long summer holidays during which she could work to earn money. That work included employment as a barmaid and as a silver service waitress. She was able to remain solvent for the first three years of medical training.

It couldn't last. Clinical curriculum commitments deprived her of any chance to balance her books. She is now on her sixth student loan, of around £7000, has an overdraft facility of £1600 and is “always floating around that level,” and has just taken out a professional studies loan of £2500 to cover her elective in India. And she owes £350 on a credit card.

Long before learning that the government was offering golden hellos to lure doctors to general practice, Lynette had considered returning to …

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